In the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, the inherent risks of oil transport and storage received renewed public attention. The U.S. Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) to amend the Clean Water Act. OPA was enacted to reduce the frequency of major oil spills, improve the efficiency of spill response, expand preparedness activities, and to provide for better coordination of spill response and planning among local, state, and federal agencies and private groups.
Since 1992, the Great Lakes Commission has provided support to the
U.S. EPA Region 5 and the Inland Area Planning Committee (IAPC) in developing the Area and Regional Contingency Plan and associated Sub-area Plans under OPA and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP). This work has including extensive data compilation through the use of a geographic information system (GIS), the development of map products for spill response planning and implementation, and preparation of Sub-area Plans for states in the region.
The main responsibility of the Great Lakes Commission is to assist the U.S. EPA in collecting and compiling data on environmentally, economically, and culturally sensitive areas located within the Great Lakes States of U.S. EPA Region 5. Special emphasis is placed on those areas that may need special consideration in the event of a spill. Additionally, the Commission is involved in the identification and compilation of locational information for major facilities, pipelines, transportation corridors and other potential spill sources. These sensitive area and spill source data and information are being used by the Commission to create databases and maps for use by emergency planners and responders. This effort directly fulfills OPA and NCP requirements and helps to protect vital resources in the Great Lakes States.